Editorial: Death penalties unlikely

Dec. 25, 2012 @ 07:07 PM

Two recent cases kept alive the possibility of the death penalty in Vance County.

Darnell Thomas Macon and LaJohn Laquan Champion are accused of shooting Gregory Welfare to death on Oct. 20. Quatrail Pair is accused of shooting Deonte Judkins to death on Dec. 11. Grand jury indictments transferred both cases to Superior Court, and up next are Rule-24 hearings to determine if the death penalty will be sought.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment entity, even annual national leader Texas is sentencing fewer people to death penalties. This year’s 43 executions nationwide included 33 by just four states: Texas (15), Arizona (six), Mississippi (six) and Oklahoma (six).

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to lift a ban on the death penalty in 1977, North Carolina put it in play as a means of punishment and has sentenced at least one person to death every year since until 2012. Judge Gregory Weeks recently overturned three through the Racial Justice Act.

As recently as 2000, North Carolina had 57 capital trials. In 2011, there were a dozen and this year only four.

North Carolina hasn’t carried out an execution since 2006.

It should be noted North Carolina’s murder rate per 100,000 people has dropped from 7.0 in 2000 to 5.3 in 2011, the latest year available.

South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Louisiana, other states recognized as strong proponents of the death penalty, also have declining execution numbers. But only Virginia of the five states doesn’t rank among the top 15 nationally for the highest murder rates. And this year, only Georgia (two) and Louisiana (one) issued death sentences among the five.

Lawmakers have it in play, an option as a means to provide justice. We would also hope it acts as a deterrent.

But costs for trials and appeals steer more cases away from executions. Thus, we’re doubtful either of the local cases, even if the accused are found guilty, will reach the death penalty.

We are hopeful, however, that justice will be served if and when those responsible are convicted.